April 24, 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, et al


I'm no Stars Wars expert. Having seen the entire series only recently, I can barely remember what happened when and who the key people were. My memory basically consists of storm troopers, ewoks, and Ewan McGregor's weird braid. 

Luckily, every Star Wars movie seems to stick pretty tightly to the same plot: evil empire vs. rebel alliance, something about a death star, and lots of flight sequences. This movie does not deviate from that formula.

It does, however, manage to stay fresh and exciting, which I think it quite an achievement for the eighth installment of a franchise. Now, this could be because I haven't watched Star Wars a million times and therefore can't pinpoint the exact overlaps between each movie, but I think the introduction of completely new characters in the same universe, without disrupting the original story, is pretty rad. And yes, bear with me, because I'm about to spout off about its diversity.

This movie is the first one I've seen in a very long time with actual racial diversity. Not just a nod to it, with a black sidekick or a female lead (good start, The Force Awakens), but actors of every color in major roles, without their ethnicity being integral to their role. And it makes sense for this movie. Think about it: it's a sci-fi movie where creatures from all over the universe are featured. Why wouldn't there be people of different skin colors and accents, coming together? So while I am celebrating this cast, I'm also wondering why the hell it took so long.

Speaking of the cast (and how much diversity means), I want to highlight this article about a man who took his father to watch the movie because of Diego Luna. I'll be honest: it was a selling point for me too--though for entirely different reasons. ;) But I was equally excited to see not one, but TWO Asian actors, only of whom had to perform martial arts. Every actor, from Riz Ahmed to Alan Tudyk, made me happy because I felt like I was finally watching a movie that wasn't cast just to to snag the most famous name they could get. (This is not to say there weren't famous people in the movie, but you can't argue it wouldn't have been significantly different if suddenly Tom Cruise or Jennifer Lawrence were in it.)

So this is where I come to the ending. I have never posted a spoiler in my life. But I feel so compelled to talk about the ending that I have to. I watched this movie three days ago and I still can't stop thinking about it. So, obligatory SPOILER ALERT warning. (scroll past to see my final word at the bottom.)

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They all get killed.

Like, all of them. Every. Single. One. Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk, Wen Jiang--all of them. They all die. It's fucking horrific.

The movie reviewer inside of me wants to applaud the writer for this utterly shocking twist, because the hero always prevails in Star Wars. I mean sure, people die here and there throughout the series, but not before getting through a few movies first. The main characters are never introduced and killed within the span of the same movie, and certainly never all of them at once. It's so brutal it's almost brilliant. I mean, it is a prequel after all, and these characters don't appear in any later movies. So maybe I should have seen it coming. 

At the same time, I am so pissed. And I don't mean disappointed or sad. I am pissed. How could they do that? How could they finally give us characters that aren't horrible actors (Anakin) or weak saps (Padmé) and kill them off? How can we possibly be stuck with Adam Driver for countless more movies, but there will be no more Diego Luna? HOW IS THIS FAIR???

I'm not exaggerating when I say I spent a solid thirty minutes screaming "they fucking killed them all!!" after watching this movie. One or two deaths would have been sad, but expected. It's a war movie, after all. But THEY KILLED THEM ALL! I'm honestly devastated. I've never cared so much about Star Wars in my life. But it's also why I also think this is the best Star Wars movie since A New Hope.

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Final word: I wish we'd be getting more movies with this cast instead of the cast from The Force Awakens.

April 21, 2017

The Girl On The Train (2016)

Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans



Oh yay! I finally get to be one of those obnoxious people who make it a point to tell you they read the book BEFORE watching the movie. So I guess this review will incorporate both criticisms of the story AND the acting. Or in this case, the casting.

Look, I love Emily Blunt. I think she can be fantastic in a number of different capacities. But fat drunk loser? Sorry, but that has Renee Zellwegger written all over it. (I mean, old Renee Zellwegger.) Seriously though, Renee has really set the bar for lonely, chubby, pitiful women with British accents. And considering how much of the plot rests on her loser-ish-ness, casting very-pretty-and-not-at-all-fat Emily Blunt was a poor choice right out the gate.

Also a poor choice? To relocate the story to the US. Maybe it seems like not a big deal, but why do it at all? To cast American actors? Except Emily Blunt still speaks with her British accent throughout and actors like Rebecca Ferguson and Luke Evans (born in Whales!) instead have to create American accents to fit in. It's nonsensical.

Also ridiculous? Casting the explicitly described "dark skinned" and "could pass for Indian at a distance" Kamal Abdic with Edgar Ramirez. And considering a significant plot point rests on his physical appearance, it's not even just a matter of white-washing -- it literally makes no sense. It's as if the casting director had already locked all these actors into contracts and just tried to divvy up the roles among them.

But beyond the casting, this movie lacked suspense. At least, the type of suspense that existed in the book. Some of that might be due to the fact that I already knew the outcome [having read the book], but that didn't deter me from enjoying a similar thriller in Gone Girl. In fact, I thought the movie improved on the book by changing the pacing of the story. Here, all the creativity seemed to be used during casting.

It takes quite awhile for the plot to warm up and for us to care about any of the characters. There are quite a few of them, I understand, but it's a long introductory period. It also doesn't give proper development to anyone other than Rachel, Emily Blunt's character. She may be the main character, but what gives the book its excitement is delving into each suspect and wading through Rachel's hazy memories to try and decipher what exactly happened. This movie lacks all of that excitement. It picks up, eventually, but that's assuming anyone watching makes it to the end.

Final word: Just read the book.

April 12, 2017

Bridget Jones' Baby (2016)

Renee Zellwegger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey




My husband will literally stop everything he is doing and watch the entirety of Bad Boys every time he sees it on TV. This is how I feel about Bridget Jones's Diary. There is no bad time to watch it. And not a week of my life goes by where I don't quote a line from that movie. (We're obviously a fun couple to hang out with.)

But after the disappointment that was Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, I tried to remain cautiously optimistic about this long-anticipated sequel. I mean, how good could it be without Hugh Grant?

The answer is, it couldn't be. Patrick Dempsey is not an adequate replacement for Hugh Grant. Maybe it's because he will always be Ronald Miller (Can't Buy Me Love) to me, but I just can't swoon over him, no matter how hard they try to make his character desirable. So not only is he not as charming as Hugh Grant, no woman could ever reasonably choose him over Colin Firth. It's like it was doomed to fail.

The only thing I was pleasantly surprised by was what a non-factor Renee Zellwegger's drastic plastic surgery and lack of weight gain turned out to be. It's not that I care she changed her face - it's her face, after all. But Bridget Jones sort of centers around what a chubby loser she is, so I was worried she would lose her Bridget-ness without that look. But as it turned out, they addressed her altered appearance, which makes me wonder what the hell this writer was going on and on about. There were plenty of things to complain about in the movie and her face was not one of them.

I know that all the iterations of this movie have been silly, so it seems unnecessarily picky to point out out the silliness of this movie. But honestly, when the entire plot hinges on a "problem" that could be solved in four minutes at the doctor, it's hard to defend it. I hate needles as much as anyone, but to reasonably assume two men would go along for such an absurd ride just to allow the woman to avoid a medical procedure is a story that could only have been dreamed up by people who write romantic comedies. So, no. It's not exactly realistic.

Final word: If the plot hadn't centered around a character I already loved, I probably wouldn't have been able to sit through the entire thing.